An American soldier wounded in an explosion in Afghanistan is set to become the first ever to receive a penis transplant in the U.S.
The patient – who has not been identified – reportedly lost most of his penis in the attack and is now expected to undergo the historic procedure at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine within the next few weeks, Reuters reports.
This comes after the hospital announced in December that the first penis transplant procedures in the United States would be performed on up to 60 wounded soldiers who had suffered injuries to their genitals in combat.
Speaking to Reuters, plastic surgeon Dr Richard Redett said: “When you meet these guys and you realize what they’ve given for the country, it makes a lot of sense.”
Veterans say that the surgery will help heal unseen wounds for young men and hope that some of them will be able to have children because of the procedure.
Army Sergeant First Class Aaron Causey – who lost both legs and a testicle because of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan – told the New York Times: “I don’t care who you are — military, civilian, anything — you have an injury like this, it’s more than just a physical injury.”
The surgery involves transplanting the penis of man who has recently died to a patient by joining the nerves and bloody vessels together. If the procedure is successful the penis would be fully functional, allowing the man to urinate and have sex.
In other cases, the severity of the soldier’s injuries would also require the transplant of the scrotum, groin tissue and inner thigh, as well as the penis.
However, the surgery does not entail the transplant of the testicles, so a successful procedure would still allow for a man to father children that are biologically his.
Other penis transplants have been attempted in the past, with varying degrees of success. The first was completed in China in 2006, but was considered unsuccessful after the patient needed his transplanted penis to be removed.
However, the second procedure – performed in South Africa in 2014 – was a complete success, with the 21-year-old man managing to get his girlfriend pregnant.
Despite the fact veterans are the only ones being considered for the procedure in the U.S. for the time being, surgeons are hopeful of offering this to men born with birth defects and transgender individuals.